HORSE’S MOUTH: It’s A Small World

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YOSHINAGA, GEORGE

By George Yoshinaga

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Well, I just got back from Vegas when I remembered it was Wednesday and I had to pound out Saturday’s column. If I wanted to simplify the task, I guess I could just print all the e-mail I received on my computer.

I was gone for four days so it didn’t surprise me that there were two short of 100 e-mails. Of course, I had to delete about 75 of them because they were what is referred to as “spams.”

Well, I’ll see how far I can go without reverting to the e-mails.

I’m not sure why but the last four days at The Cal Hotel felt like I was walking down First Street in Little Tokyo. Seems like every time I turned around, there was a familiar face.

Then, of course, there were many who would come up to me and ask if I were “The Horse.” How come nobody asked me if I were “The Hog” or “The Elephant”?

One bit of amusement was when I was walking through the Market Street Grill, the restaurant at The Cal, a slightly elderly Nisei lady came up to me and said, “Are you the waiter?”

When I gave her a curious look, she laughed and said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I meant to ask if you were the writer for the Rafu.”

I chuckled and responded, “Maybe, I’ll make a better waiter than a writer.”

I was hoping she would say something like, “Oh no, you are a good writer.”

Nope. She said, “You might be right.”

Oh well…

Also ran into Helen Kawagoe. She must be a “regular” because the last time I was in Vegas, I ran into her.

On the other hand, some of those who said, “Hi” when we bumped into each other told me, “Hey, don’t mention that you ran into me and print my name.”

I wonder if they would sue me if I did.

Okay, so I’m sure everyone wants to know, “How was your luck?”

I can think of one word and it rhymes with “luck.” Go figure that one out yourself.

Actually, it wasn’t that bad.

In fact, something happened to me which never occurred before on my numerous trips to The Cal.

I sat down at one of my favorite machines and noticed a ticket sticking out in the “cash out” slot.

Those of you who play the slots know that when you want to “cash out” on the modern day slot machines, all you have to do is punch the “cash out” button and a ticket comes out with the amount of money the player has won.

I pulled the ticket out and read the figure on it. It wasn’t that staggering, but it was worth a few bucks. I put the ticket on the machine and began to play, thinking the owner of the ticket would come rushing back.

I played about 35 minutes and nobody came to “claim” it.

There was another Nisei playing next to me and I told him about my find. “What would you do?” I asked him.

He grinned and said, “I’d put it in my shirt pocket and go cash it out.”

So, that’s what I did. My “find” didn’t change my luck, however.

Everyone who walked by where I was playing would ask, “Hey, Horse, how you doing?”

My standard answer with a little humor is, “Can you loan me a nickel?”

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Well, I got a free dinner at the Pasta Pirate, one of the nice restaurants at The Cal because Al Morita and his charming wife, Pauline, were hosting a high school class reunion and he asked me to join them.

There were about 35 former classmates of Al’s who flew over from Kona on the Big Island for the get together. Al said they come to Vegas three times a year for their reunion.

I think that’s pretty neat. To be able to socialize with your old high school classmates a few times a year, that is.

I know my old high school classmates hold a picnic once a year but with everyone getting on in years and many passing on, the gathering is very small.

In fact, last year, one of my classmates who puts the event together told me, “This might be the last one. There’s nobody left.”

Kind of sad.

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As I mentioned, one of the reasons I went to Vegas was that my wife’s sister was visiting. And, one thing those from Hawaii enjoy doing (besides gambling, that is) is to go shopping.

Since I drive, I have the car so I do drive them around to various sites.

The two most popular places are the “Manufacture’s Outlet Shopping Center” and the Vegas Golf Shop.

I don’t play golf so I don’t know about the equipment required to play the game, but the visitors from Hawaii tell me just buying golf balls at the Vegas Golf Shop saves them a lot of money.

Yeah, so I guess they can score a hole-in-one on the poker slot machines.

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Time for a few letters.

Perhaps this one should be forwarded to Bacon Sakatani for a response.

It comes from Bob Nakashima who writes:

“I received a call the other night from my friends asking if I heard about the Santa Anita Reunion Oct. 3 promoted by the Japanese American Korean War Veterans organization.

“The charge would be $29 which included admission, lunch and valet parking. The big question is why they are charging $4 for every person who ride in one car. With the price of gas, I’m sure many people will car pool. If a SUV has six passengers, that’s an extra $20 per car. A sedan with three extra passengers is another $12. And so on and so forth. Why?

“I called Mr. Muraoka (one of the organizers and he said that’s the way it is. My personal opinion is we got screwed at Santa Anita back in 1942 and now, once again in 2009.

“I would appreciate it if you could explain or find out for all my friends before we decide to attend why the extra $4 per person for valet parking.

“I know some of my friends didn’t think about the extra charge and were pretty upset and might change heir minds. Thanks for any trouble you may encounter finding out about this.”

Bob also added a P.S. to his short note.

He said he is the brother of the late George Nakashima who was a jet pilot during the Korean War and passed away there. And the jet plane he took me for a ride back then was a T33 jet fighter.

George was my roommate back in 1947 when we lived at the Gakusei-kai student house.

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Another letter (and a nice space filler) comes from Jon Foreman. He wrote:

“Many thanks for your comments on Archie Miyatake and past days in Little Tokyo.

“Little Tokyo has always been a favorite part of Los Angeles. I value items in your column that help me both to remember and learn about things that existed or took place before I arrived in 1972.

“Perhaps you remember Moto Yokoyama who did much to stimulate my fondness for Japanese cinema. In my experience, nobody else did as much as he did to promote local appreciation for this great art form.

“Moto managed the palatial Kokusai Theater in the Crenshaw area before presiding over the Little Tokyo Cinema from 1987 to 1990 on the third floor of what then was Yaohan Plaza. I believe he was employed by Shochiku throughout this period.

“I regularly patronized the Cinema during that glorious three-year run, either to enjoy new films in one auditorium or sample some classics in the other. I still treasure my theater membership card with Tora-San’s photo on it.

“Moto, who always worked at the theater entrance, provided many facts and anecdotes about the films, directors and stars. To speak with him was just as enjoyable and informative as viewing his movies.

“I lost track of Moto after the Cinema closed. A couple of years afterwards I heard he was attempting to negotiate the leasing of many Shochiku films to the International Channel when it was headquartered in West Los Angeles. Nothing came of the project.”

Thanks, Jon, for your reminiscence of a chapter in J-Town history. It’s always nice when folks remember how J-Town used to be.

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Hopefully, the readers won’t get upset by filling today’s column with letters, but it gives me some time to refresh my mind.

This is because I had to drive all the way back. My wife usually takes the wheel for about 50 or so miles, but she was exhausted by staying up late at her favorite slot machine so I was the solo pilot.

In my column from Vegas I mentioned the Osaka Restaurant, founded by my friend, the late Sam Nakanishi.

Well, reader, Ted Maesaki, added his comments on the Osaka Restaurant. He wrote:

“I read your article on your trip to Vegas and mentioning the Osaka Restaurant. We went to Vegas two weeks ago for the Hollywood Dodgers basketball tournament. You are right, the Osaka Restaurant was the very first Japanese restaurant and the only one for the longest time in Vegas.

“We used to go there back in the 80’s, maybe even in the 70’s. I don’t remember when they opened. Lately, we usually go to Makino, but this time we visited Osaka. In fact, we went there two nights. My 92-year-old mother really likes sushi. She also likes McDonald’s like you do. The waitress was so nice. In fact, she gave us a coupon for the next visit.

“When we used to go there 30-40 years ago, I remember I had to drive quite far on Sahara Boulevard, but this time, it was so close. Perhaps in the old days there were hardly any shops along the way but now the street has many businesses so driving felt a lot shorter.

“On one night we had 20 of us and the players and went to the Rio Seafood Buffet. It cost $38/person plus $3 and 15 percent gratuity. That came to $47 per person. My goodness, it was hardly worth it for us seniors, especially my Mom. She’d rather have a Quarter Pounder at Mc Donald’s.

“We stayed at The Cal and I played the table games with my favorite Chinese dealers Abbey, Julie, Kim and Lisa and I left some dollars for you to collect the next time when you go there.”

“We’ll be going back there next month for Gerald Morita’s Las Vegas Invitational Hoops tournament. If you are going, maybe we’ll see you there.”

Well, Ted, your dollars should become good friends with my dollars because I left them behind, too.

At the present time, it’s on my schedule but with three trips in three weeks, it’s not my body which might fall apart. My wallet is about ready to fall apart.

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Which brings me to the topic I mentioned a few columns back about the Nevada Gaming Commission getting the casinos to cut back on their profit from slot machines by one percent point.

So, how did I feel about such a change, if there really was one?

Maybe it was my imagination but my money did seem to last a little longer. No, I didn’t win any more than usual, but it seemed I could get more playing time out of one $20 bill than on my previous visit.

Anyone else have an opinion on this?

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Live and learn.

About a year and a half ago, when I twisted my knee so I couldn’t walk too far, my physician got me a temporary handicap card which is red in color. Many of you may have seen these cards hanging from the rear view mirror.

Well, they also have a blue card, which is for permanently disabled people.

The red cards must be renewed every six months. The blue cards are permanent .

Well, my physician felt that although my knee is pretty much recovered, it’s still not a good idea to walk too far so he had the DMV issue a blue one.

Now comes the live and learn part.

In California, those displaying handicapped cars can park at meters without having to put any coins in them.

It is printed right on the card.

Well, those of you who have handicapped cards, take note:

In Las Vegas, having a blue handicapped placard does not give the motorist a pass on feeding parking meters. The motorists must still drop in the required coins in the meter. If not, a parking ticket.

It’s a good thing I found this out before I parked at a meter in downtown Vegas. Most of the time, I park in The Cal parking garage so I didn’t give it too much thought.

However, when I took my relatives shopping and did park at a meter, a good Samaritan, Vegas native, who saw me walking away without putting a coin in the meter, motioned to me. When I asked him what was wrong, he told me in Vegas, handicapped placard didn’t free the motorist from paying the meter.

Good thing. As I dropped a coin in the meter, I saw a cop passing by.

Isn’t that a bit ironic? We sit in a casino and drop rolls and rolls into a slot machine but think we can overlook putting, say, four quarters into a parking meter.

I know some of you may be wondering, if I need a handicap placard, how can I drive four to five hours from SoCal to Vegas.

Well, it’s my left knee, which sits idle when I’m driving as contrasted to my right knee which is pushing on the gas pedal and brakes.

It’s the walking which makes it uncomfortable to park anywhere. Especially Dodgers Stadium, where the parking lot sits at a lower level than the stadium so one has to walk uphill.

It’s even tough for younger people, too. From what they tell me.

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Most will agree that the gamblers from China have replaced the Japanese, who were the big time gamblers about a decade ago.

I know that I used to accompany Japanese high-rollers to act as their guide and sometimes interpreter. And, they were greeted with open arms by the Strip casinos.

Now, you hardly see any Japanese at the high stakes gaming table.

Well, a recent edition of the New York Daily News had a headline that read, “Chinese crime connection found for Aqueduct casino bidder.”

Guess it can be called a bit of irony.

How will this affect the Chinese connection as far as casino players are concerned?

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Old time film fans probably are familiar with the name Philip Ahn. He usually got the role when the character was of Asian heritage.

Perhaps not as familiar is the name Ralph Ahn, Philip’s younger brother.

I met Ralph when we both tried out for football at Los Angeles City College. I lost track of him after I was injured playing for LACC and quite school.

Well, after over 60 years since those days, Ralph’s name popped up.

A friend, Tak Kawashima said he had lunch with Ralph recently and he asked Tak, “Is he still alive and if so, would like to get together with him.”

Yeah, I’m an old “onara” but still kicking. It might be nice to chat with Ralph after all these years.

Thanks to Tak for the message.

See ya.

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George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached by e-mail via [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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